Water Play and Pools

Water play offers wonderful developmental learning opportunities.  However, early educators must control the risks of drowning and spread of infection from contaminated water. It takes less than 30 seconds for a young child to begin to drown. More than 250 children less than 5 years of age drown each year. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that most children age 4 and older should learn to swim. Children between 1 and 4 years of age may benefit from formal swimming lessons. However, nobody should rely on a child’s swimming skills to become less vigilant about supervising a child in the water.  To learn more about how to reduce the risk of drowning, go to the websites of the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov and the AAP at www.aap.org. Search for “drowning” on both sites. Preventing bad germs from spreading through contact with water requires vigilance too. Early care and education providers must pay attention to controlling both of these risks. 

Recreational Water Illnesses or RWIs increase when children play in communal water. Swimming pools that groups use should have mechanical filtration and chemical disinfectant systems. Operators of swimming pools must check and adjust disinfectant and pH levels frequently. In May 2010 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the results of pool inspections in 15 public health jurisdictions. The study found that child care pools had higher levels of pool closures than pools in any other setting. The CDC warns against use of portable pools in child care settings: ”The larger number of children from different families in child care settings and schools can increase the risk for spreading RWIs…allowing larger numbers of children from different families to use these pools is likely to increase the risk of spreading diarrheal illnesses.”  Pennsylvania regulates any body of water for swimming and bathing except those used only by the members of one family and their guests in a private residence. See the regulations at http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/028/chapter18/chap18toc.html. Contact your local Department of Health for details. ECELS recommends using sprinklers outdoors and free-flowing tap water in water tables to reduce the risks of drowning and spread of recreational water illnesses during water play in group care settings. For more information, go to the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/steps-healthy-swimming.html

 Reviewed and reaffirmed 6/2021